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COMMENTS & QUESTIONS [for Jan., 2017]

 Do you need some assistance in parenting your Aspergers or HFA child? Click here to use Mark Hutten, M.A. as your personal parent coach.

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Just purchased the My Aspergers Teen ebook. Thank you so much for all of your hard work Mark. I actually have an Aspie adult sister who I care for and am desperate to find alternative ways of helping her deal with life in general. She now has a 3 yr old son who is of course delayed in all areas of development because of her lack of social and emotional skills. 

I have began reading this ebook and can already tell that I can say things differently to her during situations. She is much like a teenager although she is 26 yrs old so this will help me. 

 Again, thank you for this awesome collaboration of real life examples. 

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I have been married to my husband for 16 years now. It has been excruciatingly difficult to say the least. He seemed charming and attentive and considerate when we courted, although it was a long distance courtship. Almost immediately after we were married, he changed. He became distant and critical. Nothing I could do was good enough. I had given up my life in Canada, leaving my job, my adult girls and other family and friends and came half way across the world to be with him. Being in love with him, I was anticipating the closeness we should have had since he had said all the right things to show he cared and had my interests at heart. I picked up on a few things that he had said or done that seemed a bit strange, but I overlooked it since he seemed so attentive and kind.

He is Australian but came from a Yugoslav background. His childhood was chaotic and abusive. His father was an angry alcoholic who ruled his 9 children with an iron fist. The boys worked hard in the cane fields even from the age of 7 onward. The family lived in a small house in a country rural area. The boys witnessed a lot of abuse against their mother as well. This is the environment in which he and the others were raised. He left home when he was 14 and has been working hard ever since. He has had two failed marriages and has 2 grown married girls. He loves them dearly but they do not feel close to him although he tried to stay in their lives with regular visits and outings even after separation and divorce from their mother while they were quite young. Over the years I have tried to improve their more superficial relationship with his girls.

From the beginning however, I have been struggling and miserable to attempt to understand his behaviours and his oddness and peculiarities. He has been quite verbally abusive and has taken many fits of rage at me over the years. He put his head through the wall near the beginning of the marriage in one of his fits over a suggestion his friend had made to me regarding fixing our ceiling in the living room. Shock was not the word for how I felt! Meltdowns over trivial things happened often where I could not calm him down.  I would be left exhausted trying to reason with him. He was never rational.  He had no regard for my feelings. He only saw his viewpoint. No empathy as is common with these men.

He is obsessive about routine and spends long periods in his garden which is of 'special interest' to him. He has a literal rainforest that he grew in our backyard! Travel is always horrendous. His stress levels are over the top and it is extremely stressful for me. He has made me feel of no value to him even though I worked for some years in order to help him pay off debts. He never showed any appreciation for any of the efforts I have made over the years in any area. If I try to communicate with him, he treats me like some kind of crazy woman and walks away or ends the conversation rudely. All I want to do he says, is pick a fight. It is so disheartening! I cannot show frustration or he belittles me saying, 'look at your angry face!'

 After years of chaos and confusion, I finally did some research after two friends on two different occasions had encouraged me to do research about Aspergers Syndrome. One friend's father has AS.  Being desperate at that stage, I did. Well, after reading countless articles and books on the subject, I was amazed at how many of the behaviours exactly identified him. So I tried to speak to him about the possibility that he had this disorder, but he became irate and dismissed it right from the beginning. I gave him some concise information I had printed out on it but he still refused to accept it. He would just turn on me and say terrible accusatory things.

At the beginning of the marriage he did not like much physical contact. So if I tried to give him a hug in bed, he would say I was aggressing him. I was shocked and confused and as you can imagine, I was not very prone to demonstrations of affection after that. One time when I was sobbing from frustration, he slapped me hard on the leg a couple of times. He said I was just being hysterical and that he had to snap me out of it. I was of course again shocked and devastated. He reasoned, how else was he supposed to make me stop crying!  I told him then and there that if he ever raised his hand to me again, I would leave. He never has since.

 He isolates himself and hardly even speaks to me most days. He makes me feel like an intrusion in his life. Yet he relies on me for many things.  He has the same routine; work, home, drink his beer, eat, watch some tv and go to bed. He never stops activity on weekends or on days off. He works around the house like a mad man. He has depression off and on and suffers from anxiety but he will not take meds for it. He drinks beer at night to help him sleep. He has suffered from sleep deprivation over the years. He has had serious financial difficulties in his life and he has lost huge amounts of money in the two divorces as well. He used to be quite well off in the first marriage before it collapsed. So he has struggled ever since and he feels like a failure. Especially seeing his brothers financial situations where they have done well.

 He is 64 and still working long hours at a quarry. I had to stop working due to my health. The stress made it much worse. I was having severe headaches and I also have Fibromyalgia for over 30 years now. I have never used it as an excuse however and have worked hard to make his life better. But trying to engage him in any way, turns into a terrible argument. He says the most awful things to me and makes me feel like I only nag or that I am the worst person on earth. With the knowledge I have acquired about Aspergers Syndrome, I have tried so hard to apply the advice to the marriage. Nothing I do works. I am afraid I must be very inept at this. I struggle with very low self worth and I get emotional at times trying to convey to him the damage he does in his treatment of me. Yesterday we had one of the worst arguments ever. Me trying again to give him some insight into how my life is affected by his rudeness and conduct. He just explodes.

  He sees his life as a failure. His girls do not make an effort to include him in their life and this has been one of the most devastating aspects of his life. He doesn't see his 5 grand children so that is awful for him. I feel somewhat responsible for the bigger rift however because I confided in his oldest daughter about our issues. I have no family to turn to here. She finally told me not to talk to her anymore about it and that she is not close to her Dad so would not be able to help. I was shocked and of course never confided again. At the time I thought he and his daughter were very close before I came on the scene. I was quite desperate for support so I had turned to her. Now I feel so guilty about that! I probably made things even worse between them. So no matter what I do sir, it never seems to be the right thing.

He told me yesterday that he doesn't care about anything anymore and that he wants to die. His death coverage insurance is coming to an end and he says that he has to go before that. Imagine me hearing these kind of statements! Then later, he can act as if he had not said anything shocking! He was suicidal apparently when his last marriage broke up. But I have never heard him say this kind of thing, although I am sure that he has had these thoughts often enough since he is a very negative person. Considering the anxiety and the struggles Aspergers face each day just trying to navigate through all the NT expectations, it is enough to feel overwhelmed and depressed. I have compassion for him.

 I am so exhausted emotionally and mentally trying to be the help and support he needs, but there is really no support for me here.  His family has no idea what he is really like and his brothers, although materially successful, are all as messed up emotionally as well. One other brother I think has Aspergers. And with any marriage issues, they tend to blame the wife. Their father set the pattern for that sort of thinking. All these years of not being able to have a normal interaction with my husband and his loner tendencies, has created a terrible lonely and isolated existence for me. I have a strong faith in God which I think has helped me cope somewhat, since I do rely on prayer. I have friends but I don't like to dump these complex problems on them. They are aware of the situation but have no real idea what I am coping with.

He can be very generous and has given me a lovely home. His way of showing some regard is by bringing up a flower from the garden to the back porch. Or telling me to buy something he sees in an ad because he knows I may like it. I have two grown daughters and 2 grand children in Canada and he has been very generous and helpful to them as well. He has some lovely qualities. I am just often at my wits end to know how to cope with his many shifting moods and anxiety and oddities. I already had had a 22 year marriage with an emotionally abusive man who was cheating on me and gambling our family money. I eventually had no choice but to leave. So when I met my now husband, I had such optimistic hopes! I had no idea I would be serving another sentence of turmoil! If there is any advice you can give Dr, I would sincerely appreciate any help you can offer. I read your ebook and it is mostly things I am familiar with already regarding AS. I have read so much information and am always looking for better insight of practical ways to cope. But when he does not want to even consider the possibility of having this disorder, and gets hostile, it puts me at a loss of how to deal with it on my own.

I did get some therapy at one time but the therapist was always hinting at my need to leave him and the situation and get on with my life. I care very much for him and I know if I left, that would be a sure death sentence to him.

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I discovered your videos and books through YouTube a few months ago. I thought you are the perfect person I can ask help. I have a son who is 20 years old attending community. When he was little he was delay in speech so he was in special ed class up until middle school. I always thought he is a boy and so boys tend to delay anyway. Therefore, I never look for help. His grades are always not great. When he was in high school, the psychologist said that he might be asperger. However, I never have him diagnosed. I look up on internet and study more about the symptoms it does sound like him. He is taking some GE classes in the community school. His grades are not good. He has difficulties with English and other classes. It is so heart breaking to see him struggling in school. He is not driving yet. He is also struggling to pass the driving test.Now I thought time for me to ask for your help. I hope it's not too late. Should I have him diagnose by a doctor or should I send him to one of those college learning experience for high funtioning autism school. Please help. I am open to take your advice. Thanks a million

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I am writing because I'm not certain how or if I should proceed in getting a diagnosis for my son - I just want to do what is best for him. After watching some of your videos I decided to contact you. My son is 5 years old, 6 in March. Ever since he was 1, his doctor indicated that he may have some sensory issues, but he had never tested positive on the autistic spectrum. He is extremely bright (even if I didn't think so, anyone who comes in contact with him tells me so). He obsesses over certain subject matter - largely numbers, but it has also been siamese cats and characters from video games. He skips, constantly, back and forth, back and forth. He carries something in his hand always - typically a "bendy" straw, but he will substitute if necessary. He sometimes flaps his ears, puts everything in his mouth, specifically his clothing, and he bites the tips of his fingers because they "itch". These are all repetitive motions - not something he does once and then stops. He also grinds his teeth. Less than a year ago he had an IEP done, but he didn't qualify for services, again, he's very capable because he's so bright. They did an autism check, but he is socially and emotionally more aware than most children on the spectrum are. However, he tested extremely high in the areas of odd behaviors and behavioral rigidity. In addition, he is challenged by fine motor skills. The main reason I am contacting you is because these behaviors often impact our lives. It is difficult/frustrating at times to carry on a conversation with him because it is so one-sided and he has a hard time shifting away from a single subject matter that interests him. Unfortunately I feel this also impacts his ability to make friends. The constant carrying of the straw causes issues with him doing anything that requires two hands. Usually we make him put it down, but are we doing the right thing? The skipping is a great energy outlet for him, but it can be disruptive. And the repetitive motions can drive me crazy, but what should I do about them?! Is all of this just related to SPD or could it be aspergers or something similar?

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We live in Pennsylvania and have a 15 year old daughter we adopted from Guatemala when she was 18 months old. She has been acting out and dating a 21 year old male. She recently ran away with him for over 5 days and was considered a missing person. She is presently in a child/adolescent psychiatric hospital and with her other behaviors are looking at a diagnosis of RAD. She was diagnosed with ADHD when she was 8 years old. She refuses to stop seeing him and they believe they're in love. We don't want her seeing him but can't have her constantly running away. He is not a great influence and gives her cigarettes and allows her to drive his truck. She told me they had sex and it was in text messages he sent to her but no charges have been filed. Police are involved and reported to CYF. Any advice?

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My son is a 22 year old with fairly high functioning Asperger's, anxiety and mood disorder who was diagnosed right before his 18th birthday. I would say he is mentally around 15.  I was able to get him extra time in school which ended when he was 20.  He tried college for two semesters but didn't do well so he opted to try to find employment.  After a 3 year battle, I was able to get him SSI with me being the payee as they determined that he would not be able to manage his finances. He just landed his 3rd part time job at KFC/Taco Bell which I hope he can keep as he didn't do well at the first 2. He has a job coach & works with Mass Rehab to help him with employment.  He goes to counseling every other week and has a psychiatrist who manages his meds, which have really helped him out. So, while we have all of these things in place, he is lazy, unmotivated and lies all the time.  Since he started SSI last May, he pays room & board and contributes towards food and cell phone bill.  Every Monday -Thursday while I am at work I leave him a list of daily chores that are to be done before I get home. These include dishes, wiping the counters, cleaning his bathroom and room, vacuuming, cleaning the dog kennel, doing his laundry, etc.  Most days his chores can be done in a half hour or so, but most days he choses to go back to bed or play video games before starting his chores around 4 or so, knowing I will be home around 5:20. This results in him doing things rushed so they need to be redone. Sometimes he will decide he doesn't want to do something at all so he will cross it off the list and say he did it even though I can clearly see he did not.  My fiancé and I have talked to him continuously about this, trying to encourage him to start earlier so that he has enough time to do things right, to no avail. We also try to encourage him not to lie, sounding like a broken record playing the boy crying wolf story over and over. Honestly we are at our wits end with him and he is on the list with the local housing authority for an apartment but the waiting list is around 3 years.  I don't know how we are going to make it!  We started making consequences to his actions by taking away the things he loves the most - his electronics.  He only has 1 friend he rarely sees, he doesn't drive and he never leaves the house alone. Since we cant hold back food, the only other thing he loves besides his games, that is the only choice we have.  I hate the feeling that we are "punishing" an adult but he does not act like an adult and we cant just let him get away with doing or not doing whatever he wants without consequence.  So how am I doing so far?  :)

Now onto the (bigger) problem.  I had a falling out with my mother a couple years ago that will never be mended.  She has always doted on my son and he was the source of MANY arguments between us through out the years because she always wanted to treat him "special" because he was "different" while I had to constantly tell her to stop babying him and let him learn things and push him out of his comfort zone.  After our falling out, my son decided he didn't want to see her for a while and that made her very upset.  I told him I would never tell him that he couldn't see his grandmother but if he does decide to see her, I asked him to please do not talk about me, my fiancé or anything that goes on in our house, like Vegas.  He was finally ready to see her last May so she started picking him up once a week for a few hours.  This was fine for a while for the most part but I know he wasn't really sticking to the Vegas agreement.  With the recent holidays, he went there a little more often and spent a weekend and then almost a full week at her house.  Since I manage his finances, I had put money into his checking account from SSI to pay for new work clothes - which my mother took him to get.  When I went to review how much he spent, I noticed that there were $50 in gaming charges taken out of his account.  Needless to say, I was not happy.  When I asked him about them he told me "well, grandma told me not to tell you but she bought me an xbox to keep at her house so that when I get my stuff taken away at home, I can just go to her house to play games.".  I was furious.  Later that night, my fiancé and I had my son tell us exactly how the xbox idea came to be and tried to determine if it was really my mother's plan or his.  He seemed to be telling the truth but since he is known to lie, I had him call her while on speakerphone to tell her I saw the bank charges so he had to tell me about her plan to keep the xbox secret from me.  He also told her this resulted in him losing his privileges for a month.  We also put in place a "ban from grandma's house" while his privileges were lost, ruining the plan to get him to defy the terms that we had put in place.  It turned out that my son was telling the truth and my mother really was the one who devised the plan. She was very upset that we were "punishing" him again and told him he needs to start standing up for himself and tell us that he is an adult and should be treated like one.  She also said "Doesn't she remember what it was like to be 22?"  Well, Mark, when I was 22, I was married, living in an apartment with my then husband and newborn child, driving to work as a Home Health Aide for 50 hours a week.  So, yes, I do remember but apparently she doesn't since a comparison doesn't even make sense. Anyways, after the call my fiancé and I discussed things more and felt that while my son did try to hide her plan from me and spent money irresponsibly, my mother was manipulating him and the one behind the whole situation.  We decided to cut his consequence to 2 weeks but kept the month long ban from my mother in place.  The next day my mother called my son while I was at work and told him that she would meet him at his work to give him her tablet.  This way he could sneak it into the house and use it while I am at work and at night after I go to bed.  My son, this time, was wise enough to call me right away to tell me what she wanted to do and that he refused it because he knew it was wrong. She has no clue I know and am seething at her total disrespect of me as a parent.  I feel like I need to do something but I don't know what. My son also told her how we cut his time without his electronics in half, but he still couldn't see her for a month. Now she is furious. He said she asked so he told her.  Well, we did tell him not to lie...

I am sorry this is long winded but I want you to know everything that has been happening to lead me to the question the have. What does a parent do when you have an adult son with Aspergers that you are bending over backwards trying to help but you have an outside influence hell bent on trying to undo everything that you are trying to accomplish?  What bothers me the most is that she is using my son as a pawn to get at me, not to mention encouraging him to lie to us when we are trying to teach him not to lie!  Since my son is basically "stuck" here until an apartment opens up and he has no where else to go, am I wrong to limit his time with her or even going as far as to stop it completely if I continue to find out she is undermining us?  He is technically an adult but he is not one that can make major decisions without assistance, in fact I have been considering applying for guardianship.  My son says that it wouldn't really bother him not to see my mother - he just goes to get out of the house and because she buys him things.  I've tried to explain that it's not right to use someone like that but he says "well I don't mean to" but it doesn't stop him. I have asked him if he wants to go live with her but he says he does not.

I've made plenty of mistakes in the past but I have tried very hard to make the best decisions over the past several years, especially once we finally got the correct diagnosis. I would appreciate any advice that you would be willing to take the time to give.

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Dear My Aspergers Child,
I am a doctoral student in Clinical Psychology at Binghamton University (SUNY). I am also a sibling of an individual with ASD. Under the supervision of Dr. Raymond Romanczyk and in association with the Institute for Child Development (ICD), I am conducting a research study to better understand the problem of bullying in school age children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder. This study has been approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). I am looking to recruit parents of children with ASD to take an online survey (up to 40 minutes) and participants may choose to be entered in a drawing for one of five, $50 giftcards.

After viewing both your website and Facebook page, I believe that 'My Aspergers Child' is connected to many parents who may be interested in taking my survey. I have submitted a visitor post to your Facebook page and I am wondering if you would consider sharing it for your followers to see? I could also send you additional recruitment text and information if you would be willing to include a survey invitation in your weekly newsletter. Thank you very much for your consideration and support of this research, I look forward to hearing back from you!

Best regards,
Hannah

Hannah E. Morton, M.S.

Graduate Student
Department of Psychology
Binghamton University (SUNY)
hmorton2@binghamton.edu

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Dear Mark

Thank you for your series of resources “Launching Adult Children” which I am finding extremely helpful as both a parent and a professional.

My professional training is in speech pathology and education. I have worked in the disabilities field for over 30 years and for most of that time in the ASD field in a variety of roles. Most of my professional life has been as a member of cross or transdisciplinary teams. I was trained and initially worked in Australia (and currently live here) but also lived and worked in California for 12 years. I am the mother of twin girls with ASD (one with Aspergers the other HFA in the ‘old’ categorization). My girls have just turned 20, and with some expected bumps in the road, are both progressing along their own specific paths  to independence.
While most of my professional life has been in the paediatric area, over time I have become more involved in services relating to teens and young addults. I am constantly in search of more information and upskilling to utilize as both a parent and a professional. Over the past 12-18 months some of my clinical psychologist colleagues have commented to me that they would like to be able to refer their late teen/adult clients to someone who could provide more of a Coaching experience for them alongside their formal psychology work. These colleagues have stated that they feel I would be an appropriate person to take on such a role.
I have been exploring resources and training opportunities to see what is available as I do not want to venture into a role such as this without feeling that I can provide a well rounded and  high quality service to any potential clients. There are many options in Australia for training as a general Life Coach but there is no specific career path or training option that is specific to individuals with disabilities generally or ASD in particular. I am currently exploring training options in the UK and the US. I am wondering if you provide any form of upskilling and/or mentoring for individuals interested in entering this specialized field, or alternatively, if you would have any suggestions as to possible options?
Thank you for taking time to consider my questions. Thank you also for your fantastic resources.

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Dr. Hutten,
I found your website while searching for resources on ASD vs ODD.  My son is almost 5 and has been placed in a developmentally delayed preschool and labeled as autistic by the school psychologist.  The earliest appointment I could get with a local psychologist is not until May for a private diagnosis.
I have a ton of questions, but the one that prompted me to sign up today was dealing with emotional outbursts.  My son reacts very strongly to some situations and seems unable to calm himself down. 

Example 1:
This morning I asked my son to pick out what he wanted for breakfast from a short list of choices (it is Monday and the change in routine from the weekend is hard on Monday) he refused to respond with a choice or to put on his shoes and would only say "I'm playing".  I tried counting to three, then he got a spanking, which he acts totally unphased by, then started counting again and he finally put on his shoes.  I guided him to the pantry and repeated the breakfast choices - he ran into the other room screaming/crying.  I ended up grabbing three random things from the pantry and putting them in the car, then went back in and put his jacket on him and guided him outside (I have to be touching him when he is like this because he will not respond to verbal cues).  After I got him buckled in his car seat I offered him the food I brought - he responded by kicking/screaming/hitting and crushing most of the food all over the backseat.  I took all the food away and slapped his hands down to get him to stop, then spent the next 20 min driving him to daycare listening to him scream and cry about how mean I am and how much he hates me because I hurt him and won't feed him.  I did not engage him in conversation and did not "feed" his tantrum by responding when he says hurtful things to try and get me to react.  When we finally got to daycare I gave him sips of water and told him I love him even when I am angry and he is angry, and he calmed down.  He picked one of the least crushed food items and went into daycare like everything was fine.
Note - I do not like spanking or hitting, but can't find anything else to give as a consequence or to get him to comply with simple requests.  He is indifferent to verbal requests, though he seems happy to get verbal praise when he does finally do something.  He doesn't care if his toys get taken away for weeks at a time.  He isn't allowed to watch tv or get screen time at home - we watch maybe 1 movie every two or three weeks together. 
Example 2:
Over the holidays my mother was in town and he had a tantrum because I said he needed to sleep in his "big boy bed" and could not sleep with Grandma.  He was running around screaming and crying, so I told him he had to go to his room until he could be sweet.  (That is from 123 Magic and never works) He kept escalating, so I picked him up and took him into his room.  I sat in the rocking chair holding him around the waist with his arms held down (so he couldn't hit me or head but me) (I turn all lights but the nightlight off and turn the fan on).  We sat with me saying calming things like "just breath" and "shhh" for more than 30 min before he calmed down enough to even verbalize, it took another 15 min before I could let him up without him starting to cry/hit again.  Then he acts like nothing happened, and I am emotionally drained. 
So to summarize - How can I prevent these over the top meltdowns (without giving in to every little thing he wants, since he gets his way far too often as it is in order to "avoid" tantrums) and when they do happen, how can I get him to calm down faster (or better yet, on his own)? 
Note: These tantrums happen around 3 times a week, sometimes more.  He gets enough sleep I think - starts bedtime at 7:30 and wake up at 6:40.  He won't eat a healthy diet, but goes to feeding therapy for that and the tantrums do not seem to be "low blood sugar" related.

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Mark: I don’t know if the name means anything to you. I am a columnist for the New York Daily News, host The Sports Reporters on ESPN, and appear regularly on MSNBC. But I am best known to children for the books I have been writing for Young Adult readers and Middle Grade readers, novels set in the world of sports, that have become amazingly popular over the past 14 years, to the point where there are 5 million now in print. I am writing a novel about a young girl with Asperger’s who joins a successful girls’ softball team at the age of 12. She has played other sports, never softball, but turns out to have a gift for it. This on a team with ambitions of making the girls’ equivalent of the Little League World Series. The star of the book is a star player named Cassie, whose dad also coaches the team. I won’t tell you the whole story, but Cassie embraces the new girl — Sarah — while her teammates do not. To the point where Cassie will be shunned. Sarah, just in the first 50 pages, is difficult. This is all new, she is scared, stands by herself, rarely engages, goes to her spot in the outfield. But she can really, really play. The scene I’ve just written is the end of a scrimmage, and Sarah has hit a home run, and Cassie is waiting for her at home plate, wanting to give her a big old high five, and yells congratulations to Sarah, who is startled and instead of high-fiving her back, shoves her out of the way.
I am not looking for putting a bow around Asperger’s. I want this to be real and educational and even inspiring in the end. Mostly I want it to be true, and was wondering if you might have some time to talk about this.

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Dear Dr Hutten,


I have completed reading/listening to all the material that was relevant to us - we are an Aspie 60 year old married to a 64 year old NT. We skipped the parts written for families with kids  as we have none (and I've spent a great deal of my life teaching students on the spectrum, both as inpatients in psych wards and in school situations).


I've been looking for a several years for a counselor in Vancouver, BC who has experience with NT+Aspie relationships. I've searched all the ASD orientated websites, contacted people as far away as Montreal to see if they had any leads I could follow and I've tried to find Skype-based counselors from other countries. Nothing. No one has any expertise with ASDs in adults.  Last year we went to couples counseling where the counselor had heard of Aspergers, but admitted she didn't know what it was> She was completely unable to cope with or understand the Aspie issues and was a dismal failure for everyone concerned after 5 stressful sessions. We need someone who 'gets it'.


I tried again this month to find someone who I could see on my own, but couldn't find anyone with any knowledge of people on the spectrum at all. I had an initial session with a young counselor today in hopes that someone with a more recent qualification might at least have heard of ASD, but she admitted that though it was mentioned briefly in her training, her only experience was a 12 year old on the spectrum who she met once when she was 9.


Do you have any leads for me in my city or Skype-based? I desperately need to talk with someone - ideally, we both do, but will take whatever we can find. We have no car and I have mobility challenges, so it would have to be within range of transit.

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I am looking for some assistance/guidance with my 9 year old son, Ned, who has recently been diagnosed with High Functioning Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome.  Currently our main issues are meltdowns and school.  This all came about following a family move about a year and a half ago.  Prior to the move, while we noticed some Asperger’s tendencies, we generally just considered him as having a quirky personality and had no real discipline or school issues.  He is incredibly bright and creative and has always done very well in school. In fact, he is in the gifted program.  The move and all its changes, however, were very difficult for him.  School has also become an issue due to the anxiety caused by the move, but also because of an issue with a bully last year and a less than ideal response from the school.

We have been desperately looking for support and guidance in our area, but it has been a difficult search.  Currently we are on a waiting list for a BCBA therapist that should have an opening next month and the school is working on an IEP.  In the meantime, Ned has become extremely anxious about school (focusing on everything negative that has happened including the experience with the bully and the responses from teachers and staff) and has begun refusing to go.  He will get up and get ready to go but when it comes time to walk out the door the panic sets in and he has a meltdown.  I have tried talking with school staff to work on some of the issues that are causing the anxiety, but without the IEP they have not been very accommodating and the more we push him the worse his anxiety becomes.  At this point I am at a loss as to what to do and how to work through this so that he can go to school and get the services he needs.  We are at a point of considering homeschooling but part of me feels like that is giving up and failing to deal with the issues.

Any direction, guidance, suggestions or help of any kind would be greatly appreciated

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Dear Mr. Hutten:
Thank you for your additional assistance; I was successful in downloading the files this time. My son is 28 1/2 years old, was (and still is, I'm sure) highly gifted as a child--reading at 21/2, scored in the in top of the top percentile on SAT in 7th grade when he took it as part of Duke Talent program; took high school advanced chemistry at age 10 and other high school courses and graduated with English and History degrees from a state college. He started about a year early because of college credits he had already earned and perfect score on SAT and was asked to be in the honors program at his college but after about the first two semesters did not seem to really be particularly motivated and ended up with a C+grade ratio. He went back to night school while working in minimum wage type jobs and took remaining courses that allowed him to also get history degree and brought up his grade point ratio to maybe a B although he would never say for sure. His father and I were separated from the time he was 10 until he graduated. His father and I have gotten back together but don't see much of our son except for brief times on holidays and birthdays. I'm not really sure if my child is autistic; I'm sure he has many traits of ADD. He had gross motor delays, as a child was diagnosed with proprio-sensory deficits and had to have speech and occupational therapy which was stopped in middle school. He didn't ride his bike until 10 and even then poorly, falling off all the time.  He still grips fork and knife in a continental style; is left-handed. He speaks normally but his response at times seems just slightly delayed in terms of conversational timing. He loves to read and knows many arcane facts about everything. 
He has been out of the house since he was 22 and has been employed during that time but at just jobs that pay just minimum or slight above wages. We recently for first time saw the interior of his apartment that he had to move from which he had been in for several years since he could no longer find any long-term roommates to share the rent; I offered our help with his move since it was down to the wire that he found another room to share with someone and I thought it might be a good opportunity to see for the first time his living conditions since I suspected they would be very chaotic. We were shocked at how just how extremely messy and filthy his room and living quarters were, with important papers scattered among everything else, no order at all. He has three ferrets that he had taken in from previous roommate that had damaged carpet in his room and so my son had just cut up the places where urine/feces was bad and replaced it with little areas of tile, thinking that would be okay. We really didn't know what to say to him at the time other than try to help him get out by the deadline which was extended by 48 hours by the kindness of the manager. Otherwise it would have been $50.00 for every hour beyond. We had not ever done this before for him. He seemed unable to plan his move or gauge how long it was going to really take to get packed/cleaned. 
Anyway, we give him very little financial help -we have him on our cell phone plan and allow him to charge his prescriptions to a charge card that we allow him to use for that. He is on an anti-depressant and maybe something like Ritalin and has been on something for an arthritis type pain that has yet to be diagnosed; he can't sit for too long without extreme pain in his groin, he says. His former employer allowed him to stand while handling customer service and the job he has now he is on his feet most of the time. 
I sound like the parents you caution against from what I have previewed in your lectures online but can see your point too so perhaps we will find some helpful guidance from your material. My son snaps at me if I question him to just get basic information no matter how tactful I try to be. I have probably had a total of 15 minutes conversation with him for the past year.  His father would prefer to "let him learn on his own" but I wonder if he will in time enough to get on track towards something he will find fulfilling and gainful enough to not be impoverished. He has a wonderful smile and can be extremely thoughtful and kind. He has several friends, one from middle school so he is not isolated socially. He does not currently have a girlfriend although he was close to one several years ago. He never dated in high school. 

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Hello Mark

My 29 year old son was diagnosed with HFA last year.  Since then he refuses to talk to me about his condition almost as if he is in denial. He lived in Germany for two years with a girlfriend but that ended and he more or less had a breakdown.  I am trying to help my son build his confidence and self esteem up.  But I struggle to communicate with him about everyday topics such as paying rent, I feel I have no control unless I am doing what he wants.  I believe I am enabling him and that his circumstances will never improve unless I get guidance.  I am wondering if your book is suitable or if you could recommend a book for parents to read for a young adult suffering on the HFA spectrum, he also gets panic attacks and over analyses.  To anyone who meets hims he is a very likeable fellow but living with him is very challenging, he also has a terrible work record but we are hoping now he has found a job he can hold down.  I know he finds it very hard to do his job and 'banter' at work tends to get him down as he sometimes doesn't know what to talk about with his colleagues, he says he doesn't fit in.  He is trying so hard at work, but then with me I feel I am being treated poorly by him.  Looking at your advertising video I know I walk round on egg shells when he is around and anything I want to discuss with him usually ends up in an argument.  Do you have another book or recommendation that would help us?
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Hi Mr. Hutten,
While trying to find information for my son, who I suspect has AS, I came across information on AS in adults and believe that it fits my boyfriend almost to a tee!  With one exception, he is very social and is very outgoing.  From the information I read in your book, most men with AS are withdrawn or not very social.  Is it possible that he could still have it?  He has pretty much all other traits that you list.  I could never suggest it to him because he would never accept it, but I would like to know so that I can learn how to deal with him better...I'm about at the end of my rope but want to save our relationship. 

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I am the mother of a 32 year old aspire.   He was diagnosed in college, after losing a scholarship because he stopped going to class.  He transferred to the u of Iowa and, with the help if an adviser, took only a couple of courses a semester until he finally graduated with a degree in journalism and minor in counseling (due to his first effort to be a psychology major but statistics overwhelmed him).

Once he graduated a year ago, he headed to the Bay Area.   He only emails us if we e mail him. For a long time, we didn't know where he was.  He won't answer the phone. We had taken his twin brother to visit Christmas 2015 but Eric said he had plans and wouldn't see us.   We finally literally confronted him on his way to work and had dinner with us.  No communication from him.   My husband went out this November and, again, had to waylaying him to get together.  He thought they were re connecting but then Eric sent him an email telling him he wouldn't come for dinner.   I'll forward the email.

We feel that we have lost our son.   We send him money to keep him going because we want to support this dream and we don't want him living with us again. It's like having a black cloud staying in his room all day. 


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My son has been out of control for past 5/6 months since he found out that his dad had a girlfriend. He hates me for not taking his dad back after we separated and blames me. There has been a lot of shouting in past and he has seen his dad not speaking to me nicely. We get on much better now and have resolved a lot of our issues and are thinking of getting back together. We have over indulged our son and have been passive and aggressive.
He has been excluded from school twice this yr for refusing to work and neing abusive to a teacher. He is on verge of getting kicked out of school. He was caught drinking last night and i grounded him. He has gone out anyway and i know from past experience he will run away from me if i go looking for him. I don't know what I should do. Please help.

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Dear Mark,

Firstly, thank you so much for providing this service. I feel I have nobody else to turn to right now so finding your web site was a real blessing.

This enquiry is regarding my 12 year old son. He has been diagnosed with strong autistic traits, sensory processing disorder and some dyspraxia. He has always suffered from high anxiety but at the moment it appears to be escalating.

My question is regarding one particular issue with school. He attends a private school in the U.K. and they are doing their best to accommodate his needs but we are at a loss at the movement as to how to help him.

Seb is currently refusing to go into school because he is so anxious about attending games sessions. His anxiety is causing him to be physically sick. They are playing non contact sports but he still finds it very intimidating and the situation is also affecting his self esteem as he gets shouted at by the other kids when he won't join in properly. He also has an issue with wearing his sports kit. He says it makes him hate himself and when he hates himself he wants to hurt himself.

Do you have any suggestions please as to how best to handle this situation? He has a games lesson tomorrow and is becoming very anxious at the prospect.

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Mr Hutten,

I have a question on your program. We have a high functioning autistic child, Aspergers would be the old terminology, I believe.

We see a Psychiatrist as well as Occupational Therapy and ABA Therapy. Obviously I would not be considering your course if we have had success with the
other types of therapy.

ABA has been going on for about 6 months and it’s all positive reinforcement, however the meltdown’s continue. There really seem to be no consequences other than not getting as much reward.
A good example is the earning of iPad time. He can earn time if he behaves and is on task. If he melts down they dangle the carrot of iPad time if he redirects and gets his behavior under control.
The end result in my opinion is he misbehaves and still gets a reward, the iPad time, for getting it back together. So he sees that he can melt down or misbehave and still get his reward.
I am told that this is how ABA works, it’s only positive reinforcement.

Like I said, we are no better today then we were years ago and no better today then when we started the ABA therapy.

I wanted to know how your program differs from ABA as we have not seen progress with that system. They keep saying it will get worse before it gets better. It never gets better, it gets worse then
back to the starting point but we never make forward progress!

Any insight into your program possibly being a better alternative would be helpful.

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Hi Mark,
 My husband is from Switzerland and we where there visiting his mother and siblings. She in fact I am quite certain has AS so I was having a bad day when I sent you the email. 

Anyway you had asked me what an immediate problem may.  You had suggested in the ebook that the NT confuse the AS partner with a positive response to their negativity with the goal of getting the AS partner into a different and more positive mindset.  I have read this elsewhere too and I think it’s a good concept – in fact I have tried it on occasion but the problem is when my husband sees I am happy and all is well – that’s his “license” to be negative, grouchy and basically a malcontent.  As soon as he sees I become annoyed by his behavior he will say something sweet or act nice.  This is good of course but it doesn’t last and has become a pattern. I am generally a happy person but he has almost" trained me "not to act my happyself around him which only invites negativity on his end.  He’s extremely negative by the way as is him mother.  Having said this my general demeanor around him most of the time is to be flat if you know what I mean (not happy, not sad – but this is not me nor how I want to be.

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Hi,

Our story is long and convoluted.  The upshot is we moved to America because where we have been living virtually no resources exist for kids with HFA.  We need advice before Sunday evening.  I am sure you are asking yourself who this crazy guy is asking my opinion and including a deadline...

I want to introduce us and explain but I am not certain e-mail is the the best way to start.  Can we possibly speak on the phone?  We know that you offer online support but would immensely appreciate a short phone call if you are willing to accommodate some desperate parents.  Obviously, we are willing to pay for your time and ideas.  We would love and appreciate ongoing phone or internet support if you would be willing to provide it as well.  We are uninsured but willing to make further sacrifices for our son to make his, our and his siblings' lives happier!

The last seven years we have had no guidance, support or wisdom.  In fact, essentially all we got back from the world is that our kid was bad and we were parenting him poorly.  We have three other children and have known since this boy was born that he was different yet doctors and therapists were totally unhelpful for a myriad of reasons.  

Now to our currently dilemma: our son was asked to leave the public school he is attending for understandable reasons.  For him this is one in a string of school failures.  He is school phobic, suffers terrible separation anxiety and has the social skill, emotional management and sensory integration issues that many of these kids seem to have. He is very smart but has had virtually no education thus far.  That said he is capable of much, is extremely precocious in many ways and is incredibly lovable when he is not dysregulated or agitated in any way.

The upshot is we have two very different schools with very different models for life and education and we cannot determine which our little boy is better suited for (or rather, which suits him better). One school is a special ed classroom within a public school. There are seven children between seven and nine, all with an ASD diagnosis and behaviors similar to our son (eloping, aggression, impulse control issues). They have full time behavioral support and four staff members. OT, speech and psychotherapy are available on campus during the week. For recess and lunch, the children in the special ed classroom are integrated with the other neurotypical children. This program is available from elementary school all the way through high school with the possibility to join regular classrooms for some lessons if the development is positive in later years. The academics are parallel to the regular classroom and the kids in the program perform at or above grade level.

The other school is NPS. It is very small (ca. 15-20 students ranging from age 9 to 18 - our son would be the youngest by two years -, they have seven in staff) and follows the state curriculum. The setting is far removed from what a typical school looks like. There are two rooms for studying, all of which happens by individual instruction through the teacher, independent learning or group discussions. Elementary aged students study English, math and science at their own pace and via means appealing to them (different media/input-output methods) with the support of the teachers and/or older students there. All the students have IEPs for a wide array of disabilities and all of them are believed to be college-bound/high achieving. Apart from the academic work, the kids have lots of other opportunities.  They go ocean swimming three times a week (and occasionally travel internationally to compete in swim competitions), do yoga, meditate, work on life skills (shopping/cooking for everyone twice a week; taking care of the animals in school) and social and behavioral issues (the staff reports that most children phase out speech/OT/therapy, since there is an intense, if unstructured social skills training there). 

To condense this even further: the first option seems to provide a more systematic approach in skills training, the opportunity to have peer relationships, and provision of on-campus therapies and services; the second option would give our son an opportunity to discover his most effective way of learning, develop as an individual with an appreciation of his skills and talents, and allow him to thrive academically.  Our son prefers older children and adults.  If he himself were just a few years older the second option would be ideal we believe. Would we be doing him a disservice by not trying to place him again in a more traditional classroom setting with same age peers? 

We have by Sunday night to make a decision we do not feel qualified to make.  Nor do we have anyone in our life at this point who can guide us.  So we have turned to the internet and found you!   The urgency of our decision is born out of the fact we learned today that we are supposed to bring our child to the new school next week.  We do not want to introduce him into both environments as already he has so many external stressors beyond what a normal child with this diagnosis has to endure.  We can discuss these should we work together. 

This question is additionally challenging because our child has had many negative school experiences including abuse at one of the schools he has attended.  Our son is amazing in so many ways and we have been flying without a net and not always making the best decisions.  He needs us to do better and perhaps with you guidance he and we can . . .  

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We have a 10 yr old, soon to be 11 yr old and and can no longer have family holidays. We have had 2 run ins with an adult son and daughter-in-law. They will no longer come over with our 3 grand boys. What a heart ache! I am reading your ebook and am new to this. He is violent when mad and destructs things. I have been simply drawing boundaries and following these for yrs. He has got worse. I love him and he has so many gifts. His only melt downs are at home or in car. He entered brick and mortar school for the first time this yr.  (fifth grade)  He was home schooled all the rest. He was to afraid to go to school. He has grown past this and is having a GREAT year. He enjoys his teacher and she seems to be a good match for him. I have implimented two contracts attacking 2 bad behaviors he has. One involves music and his clarinet. If he wants to continue he cannot run from house and stay 'out' for hours and worrying us. He has stopped that behavior! Second was being a crossing gaurd and his behavior in the car. If he took his seat belt off and kicked seats while we are moving (traveling) no school gaurd. Also a victory! But there are so many areas to go yet.  But at home it is a diff story. I am comforted and relieved reading your book! I don't feel so alone. In the future we may purchase the counseling program. He is the 9th child and last. Whew! I fear loosing my adult children and grandchildren as we do not want his behavior around them. We are probably going to have to go to their homes and leave our son at home. Some are close by in the neighborhood. Some are out of town. Then he would have to travel with and stay in car and read for a short visit. But one family has already disconnected. *:-&lt sighI am exhausted. He has not yet stay homed from school even though he threatens. I am quiet and go about my business and he always have come around. Victory! He bullies me badly! Hubby reacts in anger and forces him (grabbing) to his room. Bad situation! I can only control my behavior. In some areas he is doing better. He used to go to the bathroom and lock it, spread toothpaste all over and break soaps, ect. He has since stopped that. I will add that he has never been diagnosed with Asperger's but his meltdowns match it. He does NOT fall into the description of it. He is a healthy, athletic, smiling, helping (in school) kind of boy. He makes eye contact, hugs and snuggles. He is a very good student. All but a FEW descriptions fit him.  I was wondering if he just had a sin problem in anger. I am following the advice for Asperger's as it does fit his meltdowns. His anger goes beyond average kid anger! And he has been this way for yrs! I could handle much better as a younger boy. I can not handle him well these days. I will press on and learn, ask my God for help. I believe you are an answer from my Lord! So my main concern right now is not being able to have company over or holiday get togethers! His birthday is in Feb and he already saying he wants nothing, no cake, presents or special food. We are prepared to go get fav food and cake at last minute or the next day. Of course we will not have any company, just our boys yet at home. We have 3 boys in the home yet. Thank you for helping and on ward I press!  Sincerely,   A tired but hopeful mom, Pam

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My 21 year old son is sure I've been "talking to someone", since my parenting has changed.  I was appalled to hear myself described so clearly when you described an overindulgent parent. He had never been diagnosed, but has demonstrated defiant behavior his entire life. In retrospect, I wish I had recognized the link between his sensory issues and his anxiety. I can't tell you how many school counselors told me that I was doing a good job, he just has a defiant personality, and to hang in there.  Now, after 2 Baker Acts in the past 2 years and multiple psychiatrists, his list includes SPD, GAD, major depressive disorder, and PTSD (from the first Baker Act!). It is painful, I'm dealing with a lot of "mouth" while cutting the purse strings, and he is truly a manipulative genius!  For the first time, I feel empowered. I have to listen over and over to figure out how to handle him, but I truly thank you! Believe it or not, it is my daughter who has Aspergers. She is finishing her second year with City Year, which I described to my husband as a two year therapy session, with all of the focus on communication and team building for Corps members. She lived away from home while attending college, (despite roommate problems and deciding she was a lesbian), and is starting applications for her graduate degree in the medical field while back at home. She plans on moving out for school. Thank you again. I only wish I'd found you before he turned 18!!!
 
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Emotional Behavior Disorder in Children on the Autism Spectrum

“My son is 9 years old and he is being very aggressive at home, but mostly in school [before the coronavirus break] - especially with teachers and personnel that intervene with him. I know they don’t put in practice his IEP goals, and he expresses to me how awful the school is for him. Now they are telling me that he has EBD [emotional behavior disorder] and they have been destroying his student record. My son is a great kid and I am learning everyday about high functioning autism, but I am suspecting his school is [was] doing a lot of damage to him. Please help!”

The incidence of aggressive behavior among kids and teens with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s is of great concern. This complex issue needs to be carefully understood by both parents and educators. Parents who witness this behavior are obviously concerned, but they often hope that their child will "grow out of it." However, it should not be quickly dismissed as "just a phase” the child going through. Unless some underlying issues are addressed, aggressive behavior is likely to continue – and worsen.



Faced with a world in which they find it difficult to interact socially, communicate clearly, and control their own behavior, kids on the autism spectrum sometimes respond with aggression. This behavior can include a wide range of behaviors (e.g., use of weapons, throwing objects, threats to hurt others, homicidal thoughts, spitting, pushing, kicking, hitting, explosive temper tantrums, destroying public or personal property, etc.). On the surface, these behaviors may appear to be pure oppositional defiance. But, on closer inspection, it is often discovered that they have more to do with impulsiveness, anxiety-reduction, and low-frustration tolerance – traits that coexist with the disorder.

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

To be effective, treatment approaches for violent and aggressive behavior in autistic children need to take the following factors into account:

• Due to difficulties with empathizing, many kids with HFA don't recognize the suffering of others. So, when the attack another person, they may not be able to fully comprehend the damage they inflict (i.e., imagine how the victim feels).

• After just a few years of classroom experience, many children on the spectrum think of themselves as victims due to the fact that they may have been teased, ostracized from the peer-group, bullied, and misunderstood (and perhaps unfairly treated) by teachers. As a result, they may believe that their aggressive behavior is totally justified.

• Due to certain traits associated with the disorder (e.g., mind-blindness, sensory sensitivities, literal thinking, social skills deficits, etc.), many kids with HFA view the world as a cold and hostile place. They may develop a “habit of thought” that attributes hostile intentions to others. This attitude leaves them little choice but to defend themselves (or shutdown and retreat). For example, if another student bumps up against them in the hallway, they may immediately take offense, certain that they were bullied (again). They may have a hard time imagining that perhaps the bumping was just clumsiness on the other student's part. In other words, these “special needs” kids may see the world as an unsafe place in which there are only victims and victimizers, so they may (unconsciously) choose to be one of the latter.

What can parents and teachers do to help? Here are some specific techniques to employ that may reduce or eliminate violence and aggression in the HFA child:

1. Many moms and dads are afraid to discipline an unruly autistic youngster for fear that he (a) is too “fragile,” (b) will hate them for being “unfair,” (c) will have a meltdown, or (d) is simply unable to follow instructions to behave in a certain manner. Your youngster doesn't have to like you – or even love you – but he does have to respect the parent-child relationship and realize that there will be consequences for poor choices. You don't have to be your youngster's friend, but you do have to be his parent.

2. Arrange furniture in a sensible way so that your HFA child can easily maneuver through rooms. If he often tries to escape through a certain door, change the path of the room so that he is unlikely to go near that door. Keep surfaces clear, taking special care to place breakables and dangerous or messy items out of reach. Organize and structure your youngster's living space to minimize frustration. Labels can help him understand where things belong and make him less likely to become overwhelmed or anxious. Also, restrict access to items that tend to cause power struggles.

3. Sometimes stress over not being able to verbalize frustration causes aggressive behavior. For example, if your youngster is angry that he can't button his coat, but is unable to describe how he feels about lacking that skill, he could act out inappropriately. Examining the root problem and addressing it may help to curb angry behavior. Calm reactions on the part of the parent or teacher are important here.

4. Many times, mothers and fathers are quick to make evaluations of their HFA youngster’s unruly behavior (e.g., viewing aggression as nothing more than a childish tantrum). Parents need to revisit their evaluations, because an HFA youngster's violence may be stemming from other issues (e.g., anxiety and/or depression). Don't make judgments until you get to the root of the problem.

5. Sometimes an aggressive youngster knows that if she engages in "divide and conquer" tactics with her parents, she will be able to get her way. However, if mom and dad maintain a united front, then there's strength in numbers, therefore disallowing the child to play one parent against the other.

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

6. Sometimes violent outbursts are predictable. For example, due to sensory sensitivities, the child may become upset when wearing a warm winter sweater. Maybe the fabric feels uncomfortable against his skin, or the smell of the drier sheet is offensive to him. Examine every component of a situation that seems to trigger aggressive actions and make the necessary adjustments.

7. Be sure to learn the difference between tantrums and meltdowns. A tantrum is very straightforward and has several qualities that distinguishes it from a meltdown. Unlike a meltdown, when the troubling situation is resolved, a tantrum will end as suddenly as it began. A tantrum is thrown to achieve a specific goal, and once the goal is met, things return to normal, whereas a meltdown will usually continue as though it is moving under its own power and wind down very slowly.

8. There's not a youngster born that doesn't have currency, whether it's toys, clothes, games, or television. Access to this "currency" needs to be contingent upon proper behavior (e.g., if your youngster throws a tantrum in a crowded store, he should not be rewarded with a toy or a coloring book). She needs to (a) understand the consequences of his behavior, (b) be able to predict the consequences of his actions with 100% accuracy.

9. If aggressive behavior has developed suddenly or has gotten worse over time, then investigate to see if your youngster has an allergy. Seasonal or food allergies can cause discomfort that the youngster can't describe, leading to extreme behavior. Other factors to consider are environmental conditions, change in medication, or a change in the home or school setting. In addition, some drugs cause aggression.

10. Be sure that your child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) has all the proper stipulations. Not all IEPs are created equally; they need to be tailored to the child’s specific needs. There is probably no process as frustrating for parents and teachers alike as the IEP process. If you feel that your child’s IEP is fairly worthless and that school staff is mostly ignoring it, then some significant changes need to be made immediately. There are several common mistakes parents and teachers make when creating an IEP (or going through the IEP process), for example:
  • The IEP contains goals that can’t be measured. This is the most common mistake made when creating IEPs. It is easy to make - and accept - overly generalized goals and achievement objectives and believe they are acceptable. Many IEPs contain goals and objectives like, "...will improve letter recognition." This is a vague goal which can be claimed as "achieved" with very little progress actually having been made. A better goal would be something like, "...will recognize 9 out of 10 random letters shown, 4 out of 5 times." This is specific and measureable.
  • The parent signs the IEP when she doesn't totally agree with it. Never sign an IEP at the meeting, especially if you don't agree with it. A verbal commitment that "we will work out the fine details later" is not binding, but your signature is. Remember that you have three days to review the IEP before signing it. It is always a good idea to take the IEP home and review it one more time, even if you think that everything is fine.  Never feel pressured into signing an IEP! All schools have a due process procedure you can follow that will progressively escalate any complaints you have through the appeals process. If you can’t agree on your IEP, the school should provide you the information and steps you need to begin the due process procedure.
  • The short-term goals will not meet long-term goals. If a specific long-term goal is agreed upon, make sure that the short-term goals adequately support progress towards the long-term goal.
  • The parent fails to review a preliminary IEP. Without a preliminary look at what is being proposed for your HFA youngster, your first opportunity to see the IEP is in the IEP meeting where you are expected to agree to - and sign - the IEP. This puts you in an unfavorable position, because you can feel pressured to agree to items without having time to really think through their implications. Always ask for a preliminary copy prior to the IEP meeting, and never feel like you have to sign at the meeting.
11. When the youngster with a “disorder” is acting out, the family may blame him for the family's dysfunction. Sometimes, parents will bring their disruptive autistic youngster in for treatment. This is the sacrificial lamb for the family's toxicity. Parents need to examine their own behavior, and if need be, the entire family should seek counseling. One child – even one with “special needs” – can’t be responsible for all the problems in the household.

12. Lastly, medication may be needed – especially if the youngster's behavior is hazardous to him or those around him. Medications are frequently used in the management of aggression, and current psychopharmacologic treatment strategies involve treating aggression as part of each particular syndrome. Before prescribing medication for aggression, the clinician should ensure that the child has a medical evaluation to rule out contraindications to treatment and to determine whether the aggressive symptoms might improve without the use of drugs (e.g., cognitive-behavioral therapy).

Here are a few suggestions specifically for teachers of students with HFA and Asperger’s:

1. Work from the HFA student’s strengths and interests. Find out how he feels about the subject matter, and what his expectations are. Then try to devise examples, case studies, or assignments that relate the subject matter to his interests and experiences.

2. When possible, let the HFA student have some say in choosing what will be studied. Give her options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let her select which topics to explore in greater depth.

3. Try to promote appropriate social interactions and help the youngster “fit-in” better. Formal, didactic social-skills training can take place both in the classroom and in more individualized settings. Approaches that have been most successful utilize direct modeling and role playing at a concrete level. By rehearsing and practicing how to handle various social situations, the HFA youngster can learn to generalize the skills to naturalistic settings.

4. Try to insure that school staff outside of the classroom (e.g., physical education teacher, bus driver, school nurse, cafeteria monitor, librarian, etc.) are (a) familiar with the HFA youngster's style and needs and (b) have been given adequate training in management approaches. Those less structured settings where the routines and expectations are less clear tend to be difficult for the HFA youngster.

5. There will be specific situations where medication can occasionally be useful. Educators should be alert to the potential for mood problems (e.g., anxiety or depression), significant compulsive symptoms or ritualistic behaviors, and problems with inattention. Occasionally, medication may be needed to address more severe behavior problems that have not responded to non-medical, behavioral interventions.

6. The use of a "buddy system" can be very useful since HFA students relate best 1-1. Careful selection of a peer-buddy for the HFA youngster can be a tool to help build social skills, encourage friendships, and reduce stigmatization.

7. The school counselor or social worker can provide direct social skills training, as well as general emotional support.

8. Realize that the HFA youngster has an inherent developmental disorder which causes her to behave and respond in a different way compared to other students. Oftentimes, behaviors in the HFA student are interpreted as "manipulative" or some other term that misses the point that she responds differently to environmental stimuli. Thus, school staff must carefully individualize their approach for this “special needs” child. It will likely be counterproductive to treat her just the same as her peers.

9. Put as many details as possible into an Individual Educational Plan so that progress can be monitored and carried over from year to year. It can sometimes be helpful to enlist the aid of outside consultants familiar with the management of young people on the autism spectrum (e.g., psychologists, psychiatrists, etc.).

10. Most students with HFA respond well to the use of visuals (e.g., schedules, charts, lists, pictures, etc.).

11. Know that the HFA student usually shows a surprising sensitivity to the personality of the educator. He can be taught, but only by those who give him true understanding and affection. The educator’s underlying emotional attitude influences (involuntarily and unconsciously) the mood and behavior of this “special needs” youngster.

12. Keep teaching fairly concrete. Avoid language that may be misunderstood by the HFA youngster (e.g., sarcasm, confusing figurative speech, idioms, etc.) Try to simplify more abstract language and concepts.

13.  It is very helpful if the HFA youngster can be given opportunities to help other students at times.

14. It is often helpful for the educator and parent to work closely together, because the parent is most familiar with what has worked in the past for the HFA youngster.

15. If motor clumsiness is significant, the school Occupational Therapist can provide helpful input.

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

16. If learning problems are present, resource room or tutoring can be helpful to provide individualized explanation and review.

17. Hold high – but realistic – expectations for the HFA child. Research has shown that a teacher's expectations have a powerful effect on a student's performance. If you act as though you expect your “special needs” student to be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the subject matter, he is more likely to be so. Set realistic expectations when you make assignments, give presentations, conduct discussions, and grade examinations. "Realistic" in this context means that your standards are high enough to motivate the HFA child to do his best work, but not so high that he will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, the child needs to believe that achievement is possible.

18. HFA students with very high-management needs may benefit from assistance from a classroom aide assigned to them.

19. HFA students can be fairly rigid about following "rules" quite literally. While clearly expressed rules and guidelines (preferably written down) are helpful, they should be applied with some flexibility. The rules don’t automatically have to be exactly the same for the HFA youngster as for the other students, because their needs and abilities are different.

20. Help the HFA student set achievable goals for himself. Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate him. Encourage him to focus on his continued improvement, not just on his grade on any one test or assignment. Also, help the child evaluate his progress by encouraging him to critique his own work, analyze his strengths, and work on his weaknesses.




21. Give the HFA student feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give her some indication of how well she has done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying her response was good, with an indication of why it was good.

22. Efforts should be made to help classmates arrive at a better understanding of the HFA youngster in a way that will promote tolerance and acceptance.

23. Educators should take full advantage of the HFA youngster's areas of special interest when teaching. The youngster will learn best when an area of high personal interest is on the agenda. Educators can also use access to the special interests as a reward to the youngster for successful completion of other tasks, adherence to rules, and meeting behavioral expectations.

24. Educators can take advantage of the strong academic skills that many HFA students have in order to help them gain acceptance with their classmates.

25. Direct speech services may not be needed, but the speech and language clinician at school can be useful as a consultant to the other staff regarding ways to address problems in areas such as pragmatic language.

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

26. Classroom routines should be kept as consistent, structured and predictable as possible. Students with HFA usually don't like surprises. They should be prepared in advance for changes and transitions (e.g., schedule breaks, vacation days, etc.).

27. Care should be taken to protect the HFA youngster from teasing and bullying – both in and out of the classroom.

28. Be specific when giving negative feedback. Negative feedback is very powerful and can lead to a negative class atmosphere. Whenever you identify your “special need” student's weakness, make it clear that your comments relate to a particular task or performance, not to the student as a person. Try to cushion negative comments with a compliment about aspects of the task in which the student succeeded.

29. Avoid escalating power struggles. HFA students often don’t understand rigid displays of authority – and will themselves become more rigid and stubborn if forcefully confronted. Their behavior can then get rapidly out of control, and at that point, it is often better for the educator to back-off and let things cool down. When possible, anticipate such situations and take preventative measures to avoid the confrontation through presentation of choices, negotiation, and diversion of attention elsewhere.

30. If you have tried numerous strategies to address aggression in your HFA student to no avail, ask the parent to consider taking the child to a professional for a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether depression, anxiety, or other problems are present. Treatment of these conditions often result in reduced symptoms of aggression.

It is inevitable that you will have the opportunity of working with students on the autism spectrum in your classroom. You will need to make accommodations for some, and modifications for others. Providing for the needs of these young people will certainly be one of your greatest challenges as a teacher. Consider the tips listed above to make the learning process run as smoothly as possible.

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… After years of struggling, took my daughter out in grade 8, home schooled her for the year. Grade 9&10 she did online. She decided to go to high school grade 11&12. She is now in her final year of University graduating with a bachelor of science in Environmental science. I came to realize that school just wasn't as important as her mental well being.
•    Anonymous said… Ask the schools special education department to have him tested. The behavioral specialist is the one who usually does the testing n it should take at least 2 weeks BC the person observes the child as well. I'd call adminstration BC that specialist is the only one that can suggest a diagnosis n it has to be put in their report.
•    Anonymous said… Do you know why he is acting out? What are the triggers? Knowing these will help his behaviour as you can then implement things to help him cope or do some social stories etc. However I agree with everyone else I'd swap schools. Xx
•    Anonymous said… Encourging you to try another school. Did miracle-level wonders for my Aspergers teen & wish we'd done so sooner for him. Mine had an IEP from 2nd to 4th grade, had a good 4th grade year because older male teacher really appreciated his outside the box thinking & encouraged him while setting strict expectations and structure. The kind of teacher we all wish they all were, but unfortunately not. Even with my involvement and guidance, including written materials to enhance their knowledge of his needs, we had ignorant teachers unwilling to accomodate and absolute asshole bully peers & parents. Kids that know they can get away with rottenness toward him because they've been doing it for years. New environment with clean slate did wonders. Wish the same for you..best luck. Hang in there Momma
•    Anonymous said… get all of his records under freedom of information, keep your copies of all IEP's and gete to the head of education, sounds like he needs a change of education setting
•    Anonymous said… He has triggers, u need to watch for them. My sons 9 also n he's violent as well. A lot of times the generic word used is emotional behavior disorder BC not u til they have been seen for a long time
•    Anonymous said… Hire an advocate and force your County public school system to pay for your son to go to an ASD school. That's exactly what I did. A good advocate is well worth it. Believe me!! Best $2000 I could have ever spent on my son's future. My son will NEVER again have to deal with the uneducated and unskilled people within the public school system. YOU are the parent, don't ever let them forget it and try to back you in a corner.
•    Anonymous said… I know this journey all to well. Sometimes, we pray and hope for a better result as the child get older. You may have to seek behavior modification therapy. The teacher can become very exhausted as well. The school has to protect other student's from the violent behavior. You can discuss options with professional services. Perhaps, a smaller setting classroom.
•    Anonymous said… My son 13 has aspergers his school not doing well with his ehcp i feel like i am letting him down he doesnt want to move school and to be honest 8t would only make things worse for him change is not good when he in yr 8 nearly 9 but thats just my son . He is well behaved at school and home mostly just doesnt like to leave his xbox hates shopping lol
•    Anonymous said… Putting a child with special needs in the hands of those who do not understand or accommodate those needs is like sending a person who has a broken leg to an eye doctor.
•    Anonymous said… Same thing happened to me and my kid, I got involved really involved, got to do a meeting with the teachers, and talked to them about what he has , and what he needs, also got to set a plan with the teachers and all of this of course with my kid's Psychiatric psychologists and neurologist advice on paper. Now is not perfect but you can tell they are working on it.... Hard.
•    Anonymous said… They need to do a Functional Behavior Assessment (to find out what causes the behavior)then a Behavior Intervention Plan (to change the behavior). These are both added to the IEP. Ask questions like: What was happening before the behavior started? What did your son see? Was he trying to communicate? What would YOU do differently?
•    Anonymous said… Unfortunatly this is all too common. Not only did the schools insist my son had a behavior problem, one incident when a teacher bent down over him during a meltdown, he swung at her trying to defend himself after a different teacher sat on him. In doing so, he hit her breasts which was the closest thing to him and they tried to claim it was sexual assult..he was 8.
I've since taken him out of school, did one year of "unschooling". He now does online school and the "behavior" has all but gone away.
•    Anonymous said… We changed schools and the phone calls to pick our son up stopped. Only calls I have had in the past 2 years was if he was hurt or sick.
•    Anonymous said… We ended up homeschooling and my only regret was not doing it sooner. Of course we are in a remote area with no other viable options. The school would not acknowledge psychiatric orders.
•    Anonymous said… We moved schools from a well meaning but hugely overcrowded and busy school to a very small rural school and he is doing a lot better. My son soaks up others stress and if he feels overwhelmed then the fight or flight instincts kick in.
•    Anonymous said… Yes, absolutely look around for a school that understand ASD, including knowing how to not let him use it to get out of school. That may sound harsh, but my co-parent and I have been through that. For a couple of years we got called easily two to three times a week to take our son home. He'd learned to use his outbursts to get sent home if he was bored or frustrated. Once we found a school that didn't always call us, he leaned really quickly he could no longer use it as a tool. This was in conjunction with some other improvements as well (imo, it's never just one thing, but multiple factors) that have him doing next, much better. He's now 10, so close in age to your little guy. I don't want anyone to think I believe ALL his outbursts were contrived, far from it. But in addition to real sensory overloads, he'd learned to manufacture them as well. High functioning is a different set of battles.

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